MASERU – At-least 1 951 wool and mohair farmers who do not own bank accounts shall be paid a total sum of more than M6million over the counter at the Lesotho Post Bank.
The bank has confirmed that payments will be made as soon as lists of farmers have been verified. This was revealed by the Acting Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Likopo Mahase on Monday, when giving a progress report in the National Assembly on the much awaited payment of farmers.
After the Lesotho Wool Centre, run by Chinese business man Stone Shi failed to pay wool and mohair farmers for the financial year 2018/19, the government decided to take charge and committed to pay all the farmers who are owed by Shi.
Cabinet directed the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to collect and verify lists of all unpaid farmers. The total number of farmers whose payments were outstanding was found to be 2 710. Upon completion of this exercise, the Ministry of Small Business Development requested an additional budget of M10 530 766.10 from Cabinet to enable it to settle all the outstanding balances.
On Monday, Mr Mahase revealed that the Ministry has submitted payment vouchers to the Ministry of Finance to pay 759 farmers with correct and verified bank accounts. The submissions include payment of over M3million to 643 farmers who hold Standard Lesotho Bank accounts as well as more than M500 000 to 114 farmers who hold Lesotho Post Bank accounts.
Additional M7 631.58 will be disbursed to two farmers in possession of the First National Bank (FNB) Lesotho accounts.
“The payment vouchers from the Treasury Department were submitted to the CBL (Central Bank of Lesotho) and there was confirmation of the receipt of funds into the accounts where these payments were made. Disbursement of payments to the individual farmers’ accounts to the two commercial banks of Standard Lesotho Bank and FNB will be facilitated by the Ministry of Finance and payments to Lesotho Post Bank will be facilitated by the bank itself,” Mr Mahase also revealed.
He said only 749 farmers have been confirmed to own active bank accounts whereas 1 951 farmers either have no bank accounts, dormant, inactive accounts or incorrect account numbers. “The remaining 1 951 farmers without bank accounts shall be paid a total of M6 886 740.04 over the counter at Lesotho Post Bank. The bank has confirmed that payments will be made as soon as all the lists have been verified,” the minister added.
The Agriculture Ministry has further requested an additional M2 106 153.22 as contingency for incidental cases of farmers that may have been excluded during the stock sheets compilation at shearing sheds. These shall be verified after all payments have been successfully made and queries have been submitted.
However, despite government committing to pay all the farmers whose payments are outstanding, Shi will be expected to pay back all the monies. An agreement has in fact been signed between the government and him that he will reimburse the money.
In a twist of events, Shi has recently been implicated in allegations of corruption, with rumors indicating that he continues to export wool and mohair to foreign countries despite his trading licenses having been suspended.
Mr Mahase agreed on Monday that Shi was not supposed to be operating, adding that his trading licenses have not only been suspended but in fact also expired in December 2020. He said promised to work hand in hand with the police to investigate the matter.